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Face-Off: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 vs. Texas Chainsaw 3D

Here at Arrow in the Head, the first two things we think about when the Thanksgiving holiday comes up are family and cutting meat. And what family is better at cutting meat than the cannibalistic family at the center of the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE franchise? This year, we have decided to celebrate Thanksgiving by taking a look at two different direct follow-ups to the 1974 classic THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE; the first sequel in the series, Tobe Hooper's THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 from 1986, and John Luessenhop's 2013 franchise "reboot" TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, which ignores the sequels, remake, and remake prequel to present itself as an alternative part 2. Which is the better sequel? Let's find out by having them Face-Off.

CONTINUING THE STORY

Thirteen years after THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, Drayton "The Cook" Sawyer and his brothers Leatherface (a.k.a. Bubba) and Chop-Top (the twin brother of the Hitchhiker) have moved into an abandoned amusement park in the Dallas / Fort Worth area and started up a successful catering service that offers award-winning chili. Their nice set-up comes crumbling down when Leatherface and Chop-Top murder a pair of idiots who happen to be calling in to a local radio station to harass the DJ. This murder catches the attention of former Texas Ranger Lefty Enright, the uncle of TCM characters Sally and Franklin. Lefty has spent the last decade hunting the people who murdered his nephew and drove his niece out of her mind and into catatonia, and this is his chance to finally bring their reign of terror to an end. TCM2 benefits from being the only sequel to bring Jim Siedow back as Drayton / "The Cook", and directly tying Lefty's mission of vengeance to the first film was a nice touch.

TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D picks up immediately after the ending of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, but the continuity is all scrambled up. Ignoring the fact that the first movie was set in 1973, this one shifts the timeline forward - the first character we see is a police officer who drives up to a nice recreation of the TCM house in a vehicle from 1986. The cannibal family is given the name Sawyer, lifted from TCM2 even though the events of that film are ignored, and here we're told that "The Cook" Drayton is Leatherface's father instead of his brother. Holed up in the house and ready to fight the authorities are more Sawyers than we ever knew existed, as apparently the guys from the first film had family members who would stop by for visits and didn't mind the cannibalism and animal bone decorations. Within the first 10 minutes vigilantes have wiped out every Sawyer present except for Leatherface and a baby. Jump ahead twenty-some years, and circumstances are going to bring those two survivors back in contact with each other.

FAMILY MATTERS

There was a humorous element to the familial interactions in the first TCM, and TCM2 cranks that humor up as far as it will go. Drayton gets hilariously frustrated with his dimwitted brothers and frequently dishes out verbal abuse. When he's not yelling at them, he's going on about the troubles of the small business man - it's very true to the way he was portrayed in the previous movie. As goofy as the Hitchhiker was, his twin Chop-Top is even nuttier, bouncing around with manic energy and being a pest. Chop-Top is Leatherface's partner in shenanigans, and these two would be driving Drayton crazy if he wasn't already there. When Chop-Top finds out Leatherface likes a girl, he starts teasing him in the way brothers do.

We don't get to see a whole lot of Leatherface interacting with family members (that he's aware of) in this film. We have the Sawyers at the beginning ready to give him up to the police, as long as he gets a good lawyer. After they're mowed down, he goes off to live with his mother, who has married a wealthy man and resides in a mansion. I have trouble believing that the woman who gave birth to Leatherface could accomplish such a thing. Leatherface lives in an area beyond the locked wine cellar, and it's stocked with hooks, flesh masks, and chainsaws. When he first crosses paths with the heroine of this film, he's out to kill her like anybody else - until he realizes she's a relative. He won't harm his own blood.

HEROINE

Vernita "Stretch" Brock is one of my all-time favorite horror heroines. She has a cool job as a radio DJ at KOKLA, but she's driven to leave the DJ gig behind and do something meaninful with her life - starting with taking the opportunity to help Lefty Enright bring the "chainsaw killers" to justice. At Lefty's request, she spends an entire shift playing the audio recording of the guys who were calling in to her show being murdered every hour on the hour, not realizing that Lefty is using her as bait to lure the killers out into the open. But when the killers stop by the radio station and Lefty doesn't show up to stop them, she takes their operation a step further and is brave enough to follow the killers back to their lair. That turns out to be a terrible decision, she makes a few of those, but I admire her courage and dedication. She also does a great job of handling the massive crush Leatherface has on her.

TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D's heroine was born Edith Rose Sawyer, but we come to know her as Heather Miller. A glimpse into her daily life implies that she has naturally inherited some Sawyer traits; she works in the meat department of a supermarket and creates art out of animal bones. When she learns that a grandmother she never knew about (Leatherface's mom) has passed away and left her a mansion, she goes to check the place out with a group of friends. Here we learn that Heather is also an idiot, as she leaves a hitchhiker alone in her fancy new house and gets her pals killed because she neglects to read a note that informs her of the chainsaw-wielding cousin living behind the wine cellar. Once she learns what happened to the Sawyers, she's easily able to get over the murders and sides with Leatherface. Her friends did suck, but what about all the other people the Sawyers killed? That's a lot to overlook.
 

LEATHERFACE

We see a new side of Leatherface in this sequel. A horny side. Tasked with killing the radio DJ who overheard the opening sequence murders, he finds that he can't bring himself to hurt Stretch. He's too attracted to her. Leatherface falls in love in this movie and does his best to woo Stretch, but he doesn't quite understand how it all works. Leatherface is portrayed in quite a comedic way here. He bumbles and falls around, his lack of smarts and tendency to dance are played for laughs. It's different from the original, but fits the tone of this one.
 

Leatherface has quieted down a lot since the original; the screaming and babbling he did in that one aren't really present, not even in the scene that's set right after the first movie. He's in silent slasher mode most of the time, knocking off Heather's friends and getting revenge on the vigilantes who wiped out his family. He starts off as the monster in the basement, but by the end he's sort of a stoic, badass anti-hero. We're supposed to be completely on his side and cheer when Heather slides his chainsaw to him and tells him to "do this thing." 
 

MEAT CUTS

Special effects legend Tom Savini did such a fine job making this film a gleeful, nauseating bloodbath that it had to be released unrated. The fun starts right up front, as we get to see a person's chainsawed head split in half before severed arties spray blood into the air. Later a man is brutally beaten with a hammer before having some of his skin peeled off. The heroine gets the face of the man she loves placed over her own face. Bellies are split open, guts spill from bodies, and more guts are found concealed behind a wall that gets busted open. 
 

This doesn't have the level of gore that CHAINSAW 2 had, but it's no slouch. Plenty of meat gets cut in here. Leatherface destroys a guy's head with a tenderizer, drags another guy down stairs with a hook, then hangs him up on another hook. He chops fingers, chainsaws a leg off - even saws a person in half while we watch. A hatchet is put to use, a face is peeled... And it all builds up to the sight of a person being fed into an industrial meat grinder. There's some bad CGI in the mix to spoil things, but for the most part I appreciate the bloodshed.
 

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2

I enjoy TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, I like its vengeful Leatherface and it's a decent slasher, but it's tough to take it seriously as a follow-up to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE when it tosses out continuity, drops in extended family, and wants us to care about such an odd, complicit heroine. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, on the other hand, doesn't even ask to be taken seriously - and I find it to be a hell of a lot of fun. The connections to the original are better than what 3D tries, the family interactions are a joy to watch, the story between Leatherface and Stretch is great, and Savini made a mess of the place.

Do you agree with the outcome of this Face-Off, or do you think TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D is a better "part 2" than THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2? Share your thoughts on these films in the comments section below. If you have suggestions for future Face-Off articles, you can send them to [email protected].

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